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Ice Cream Social

Drew Belcher, cofounder of Sorry, Not Sorry Creamery, standing at the storefront.
Sabin Orr

What accounts for Sorry, Not Sorry Creamery’s viral success? Social media savvy topped with deliciously decadent ice cream

Sometimes, all it takes is a wall. A fun, flashy wall that lures Instagrammers and TikTokkers, creates irresistible buzz, and hopefully attracts lines that stretch around the block.

In the case of Sorry, Not Sorry Creamery, two walls of theirs have been splashed over my Instagram feed time and time again: One wall features a sprawling, whimsical mural from local artist Pretty Done, and the other sports a smiley face rendered in glowing pink neon. With its cute, clean aesthetic and baby-shower color palette, the recently opened ice cream shop totally pops on Instagram, which should come as no surprise: Sorry, Not Sorry’s cofounder Drew Belcher also happens to run one of Las Vegas’ most successful Instagram foodie accounts, @unlokt. He knows better than anyone how to turn customers into viral marketers who can’t pass up the chance for a fun selfie.

“If you look at the characters in the Pretty Done mural, everything has a little meaning. There’s a lot of Vegas innuendos and references,” Belcher explains. “Once people are standing in line, you want to give them something to do, and you want to see if they can provide some sort of marketing for you for free.”

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Belcher didn’t achieve his mastery of generating social media buzz overnight. He started Unlokt 10 years ago as an iPhone app to showcase local eats. He then launched an Instagram account to promote the app. That account ballooned into its own foodie phenom that today has more than 400,000 followers. After years of posting about the Vegas food scene, Belcher developed Unlokt into a marketing agency that currently works with 58 clients, including buzzy restaurants such as Good Pie and Truffles N Bacon Cafe.

So why launch an ice cream shop? Isn’t Belcher rolling in the dough as a foodie influencer turned marketing impresario? Not as much as you might think. Belcher points out that today’s social media supernova means there’s a glut of would-be influencers crowding the market.

“With every single foodie in Las Vegas or just on Instagram in general, there’s not really money to be made per se,” he says. “A lot of the time, these restaurant owners are so spoiled because they’re entirely built off the back of these Instagram influencers now for pretty much pennies, nearly chump change. Instagram influencers are literally changing the dynamic of these businesses — increasing the sales, increasing the following, and literally growing their brand for peanuts. They’re just so excited and happy to do it.”

Even with 1.3 million followers on his Unlokt TikTok account, Belcher says he only makes “a couple hundred bucks a month from the Creator Fund.” That’s one of the reasons Belcher, along with partners Tim Dang and Kevin Whelan, decided to open a brick-and-mortar shop of their own.

“I got tired of growing these brands and blowing them up, and then getting fired six months or a year in after getting so attached to these brands emotionally,” Belcher says. “I said, ‘You know what, instead of making all these other restaurant owners all this money, why don’t I throw my hat in the ring and really utilize what I’ve learned building a brand on social media?’”

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Of course, he also recognized that he had to have a great product. “We wanted to make sure that we actually had not only a good aesthetic, but we had to have the best ice cream you can physically possibly make. And that’s what we did.” Sorry, Not Sorry sources its dairy from Scott Brothers Dairy, the same farm from which Portland-based ice cream phenomenon Salt & Straw gets its dairy. “Scott Brothers Dairy is the number-one dairy farm in the entire United States, out of Chino, California,” Belcher says. “It’s a 110 year-old dairy farm with 18 percent butterfat. Any more butterfat and legally you would have to call it custard.”

A sampling of Sorry, Not Sorry’s selections proves that Belcher isn’t just talking hype. The richness of the dairy elevates traditional flavors such as Mint Chocolate Chunk and complements the jammier flavors of their Crunchy PB&J and Strawberry Balsamic with Black Pepper. My personal favorite, Churros and Fudge, is a vegan, oat milk-based flavor that’s just as velvety as its dairy-based counterparts.

“You’ll see stunt food, the crazy viral items, on Instagram, but is it good?” Belcher says. “It may get people in the door, but getting them to come back over and over is the dilemma that a lot of restaurant owners find themselves in.”

At Sorry, Not Sorry, the design choices are attuned to smartphone snappers, but it’s the craft creamery’s product — served traditionally in a cup or cone with few frills — that will keep the foodies flocking back. Sorry, Not Sorry’s Instagram account, which has only been active for two months, already has more than 22,000 followers. But it’s a good bet that the new creamery’s rising profile on social media won’t just be a fleeting five minutes of Insta fame: Belcher and his team already have two more Sorry, Not Sorry Creamery locations in the works. Φ